One of the most successful camp (yet never "out" gay) comedians the UK ever produced - and "national treasure" - Mr Larry Grayson would have been 90 years old today.
Without him, his camp catchphrases ("Shut that door!", "What a gay day", "Seems like a nice boy", "Look at the muck in 'ere" and "Ooh, I've come over all limp") and his endless coterie of name-dropped (but never seen) friends including "Everard", "Slack Alice" the miner's daughter, "Pop-it-in Pete" the postman, "Apricot Lil" the jam factory girl and "Once a Week Nora", would such mincing stars as Julian Clary, Dale Winton, Graham Norton and even such legends as John Inman have been so accepted?
Like his contemporaries Kenneth Williams, Charles Hawtrey, Dick Emery and Frankie Howerd, Larry made campness an entertainment artform via revues, stand-up and variety shows. Unlike them, however, he was almost 50 by the time he got his biggest (TV) break.
Here, from a tribute show [all five parts are available on YouTube], is a hilarious selection of examples of the genius that was Larry Grayson:
He was a lifelong friend of the matriarch of Britain's one-time second most successful (after Coronation Street) soap Crossroads, Miss Noele Gordon [read my blog about her] - they even played a trick on the papers by pretending to be engaged - and here are a few more examples of Mr Grayson's craft, wherein he continually name-checks the great lady:
Facts about Larry Grayson:
- Born William Sully White, his mother was unmarried and he was initially brought up by friends of his mother who had two daughters. His foster mother died when he was six and he was subsequently raised by the younger of the two daughters, Florence. Throughout that time his real mother regularly visited and he knew her as Aunt Ethel.
- He started his career singing bawdy songs in workmen's clubs, and later donned a wig and a frock and became a female impersonator using the stage name Billy Breen.
- He eventually called himself Larry Grayson, taking the surname from the actress Kathryn Grayson.
- Late in his career, his act was spotted by impresario Peter Dulay, who brought him to London, where he appeared in revue, panto, at Danny La Rue's nightclub and even at the London Palladium. It was here he made the jump to television, after being spotted by Lew Grade who gave him his own ITV show. From there, of course, he became the UK's top-rated television star in the 80s when he took over The Generation Game, and history was made.
Larry Grayson obituary in The Independent